The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun, Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd., and Rainberry Inc. (formerly BitTorrent) for the unregistered offer and sale of Tronix ($TRX) and BitTorrent ($BTT) crypto asset securities.
According to a press release issued by the SEC earlier today, Sun and his companies are also accused of fraudulently manipulating the secondary market for TRX and orchestrating a scheme to pay celebrities to promote TRX and BTT without disclosing their compensation.
Eight celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul, DeAndre Cortez Way (Soulja Boy), Austin Mahone, Michele Mason (Kendra Lust), Miles Parks McCollum (Lil Yachty), Shaffer Smith (Ne-Yo), and Aliaune Thiam (Akon), have been charged for illegally promoting TRX and/or BTT without disclosing their compensation.
The SEC’s complaint states that Sun and his companies offered and sold TRX and BTT as investments through multiple unregistered “bounty programs.” The complaint also alleges that Sun, BitTorrent Foundation, and Rainberry offered and sold BTT in unregistered monthly airdrops to investors who purchased and held TRX in Tron wallets or on participating crypto trading platforms.
In addition, the SEC accuses Sun of violating the antifraud and market manipulation provisions of federal securities laws. From April 2018 to February 2019, it says that Sun allegedly directed his employees to engage in more than 600,000 wash trades of TRX between two crypto trading platform accounts he controlled. The SEC also claims that Sun also sold TRX into the secondary market, generating $31 million in illegal, unregistered offers and sales of the token.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler had this to say:
“This case demonstrates again the high risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure. As alleged, Sun and his companies not only targeted U.S. investors in their unregistered offers and sales, generating millions in illegal proceeds at the expense of investors, but they also coordinated wash trading on an unregistered trading platform to create the misleading appearance of active trading in TRX. Sun further induced investors to purchase TRX and BTT by orchestrating a promotional campaign in which he and his celebrity promoters hid the fact that the celebrities were paid for their tweets.“
Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, emphasized the importance of investor protection and stated that Sun and others used an age-old playbook to mislead and harm investors.
Excluding Cortez Way and Mahone, the charged celebrities agreed to pay over $400,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle the charges without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings. The SEC’s investigation and litigation are ongoing.
According to data from TradingView, currently (as of 11:27 p.m. UTC on March 22) $TRX is trading at around $0.0598, down 10.6% in the past 24-hour period: